Every raincloud had a sensational silver lining on the 2019 Mille Miglia
If you’re not following Classic Driver on Instagram, you’ll have missed my daily updates from the road on this year’s Mille Miglia. The annual 1,000-mile road rally from Brescia down to Rome and back runs through the heart of Italy, both literally and metaphorically. And while in many ways the recipe remains the same each year, the organisers always find ways of subtly changing certain aspects. The route, for example, was tweaked this year to encompass more of Tuscany. And when was Tuscany ever considered a ‘bad’ thing?
With regards to the organisation, we certainly felt that more than ever, priority had been given to commercial partners – not only were we (once again) refused the level of media accreditation granting us complete access to the route, but there was also an obvious abundance of sponsor entries. It’s a bit of a shame when money influences the event to such an extent, particularly if the owners of very eligible cars with period Mille Miglia histories are rejected. Furthermore, the 200-or-so further entrants driving modern cars in the Mercedes-Benz and Ferrari ‘tribute’ rallies did nothing to bolster the Mille’s image on this year’s event.
That said, the 450-strong entry list is a veritable smorgasbord and a real feast for enthusiasts of older machinery, me included! In fact, choosing my favourites is very difficult indeed. For sure, the competition Ferraris will remain in my memory – and ring in my ears – for a long time to come.
From the 750 Monza and 500 Mondial to the 225S Vignale and beguilingly original 275S/340 America, it was a selection for the true Ferrari connoisseurs. If we were to drive 1,000 miles on Italy’s finest roads, however, we’d have probably opted for the 166 PF Berlinetta – the very first Ferrari to be bodied by Pininfarina, which was expertly restored by DK Engineering. Props to the world-renowned industrial designer Marc Newson, too, who entered his big, brutish 875S.
I also adored the pre-War Aston Martins, the swarm of buzzing Cisitalia 202 MM ‘Nuvolari’ Spyders, the dinky Fiat Topolinos and Renault 4CVs, and the sensational dark green Alfa Romeo 8C 2300 Monza, a car with such a special history that an entire book was written in its honour.
While the route and the cars taking part might change every year, there’s one thing that always pervades the Mille Miglia, and that’s the insatiable enthusiasm of the Italian people, lending the event a party atmosphere that, from our point of view, is unrivalled in the world of historic cars. You could reasonably compare the Mille to the Tour Auto in France, but the people in France simply don’t have the same passion.
Along what felt like every mile of the route, the roads were lined with thousands of spectators old and young, waving flags, gesturing wildly, or ushering the entrants to slow down in order to shower them with gifts. They went particularly mad for the small yet boisterous Etceterinis and, of course, the ravishing red Ferraris or myriad shapes and sizes.
That they also braved some terrible weather was incredibly encouraging for the entrants, particularly those in open cockpits entirely exposed to the elements. There’s an old saying, ‘no rain, no Mille Miglia’, and it’s absolutely true. We had showers at the beginning in Brescia and torrential rain for virtually the entire final day – distinctly un-Italian conditions. But in spite of this, and the eye-watering value of some of the cars taking part, not once were spirits dampened. If anything, the weather simply enhanced the can-do attitude and buoyant spirit.
Lined up and slowly rolling along the sopping wet carpet in Travagliato, the final city before the finish ramp in Brescia, after four exhausting, epic days, the cars – caked in grime and often proudly wearing mascots picked up along the way – and their pilots looked jubilant, and deservedly so.
To see children high-fiving the drivers in admiration and respect is truly magical, and so encouraging for the future. Sure, the modern iteration of the Mille might be somewhat sanitised in comparison to the infamous original but let me tell you it’s no walk in the park.
I’ll finish with a Mille Miglia moment I’ll simply never forget: being chased by a Maserati A6GCS/53 Spyder, one of the most beautiful sports-racing cars to wear the legendary Trident, its spine-tingling six-cylinder howl causing every nerve in my body to spasm and my eyes to well. Until next year!
Photos: Rémi Dargegen for Classic Driver © 2019